Elected officials don’t get much more hands-on than Bill Voedisch.

Since 1997, Voedisch, the town board chairman of May Township in northern Washington County, has made house calls, attended meetings and even mowed the township’s baseball fields. He has been board chairman for 23 of his 24 years in office.

Voedisch is stepping down from his duties this week. He did not file to run for re-election, and his last board meeting will be Thursday.

“Twenty-four years is a long time,” said Voedisch, 76. “I’ve never really retired, that’s the problem. Right after I retired from the business world, I ran for town board. That’s pretty much 55 years of work, one way or the other.”

Voedisch, a retired West Publishing executive, and his wife, Laurie Carlson, purchased their first farm in May Township in 1983.

Undated courtesy photo, circa March 2018, of May Township Board Chairman Bill Voedisch, who is running for re-election on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Voedisch, 73, a retired West Publishing Co. executive, was first elected to the town board in 1997. He has been board chairman for 20 of his 21 years in office. (Courtesy of Bill Voedisch)
Bill Voedisch

“We stumbled on a 21-acre piece of land on Ostrum Trail, where the owner’s ‘For Sale’ sign was in the ditch,” he said. “It seemed just right.” In 2000, the couple purchased a 60-acre farm on Old Guslander Trail, where they ran a therapy-horseback-riding program for many years.

Voedisch was first elected in 1997 after a heated campaign over the future of the town hall.

“It was all anybody talked about,” he said. “People were going door-to-door to campaign. … It just didn’t make any sense to me to take this historic building and tear it down for some new pole-barn building kind of thing. That was the lynchpin issue: to keep it or to tear it down. The vote was very close. Voedisch won with 429 votes; 10 more than his opponent.


Since then, Voedisch has worked to keep May Township rural and noncommercial, he said. “That’s what the founders wanted when they pulled away from Marine (on St. Croix) in 1893, and we’ve been noncommercial ever since. You can’t buy a gallon of gas or a carton of milk in May Township.”


Among his accomplishments, in his estimation: keeping big solar-panel farms out of the township, keeping spending and taxes in check and supporting the new River Grove school.

Because Voedisch was retired and most of his fellow board members were not, “everybody understood that when a citizen had an issue, I would be the one who would drive over,” he said. “If somebody had to meet with the watershed district … to talk about a project they wanted to do, it was me. If there was a meeting at the county, it was me, and that was fine because I was the guy who had the time.”

Voedisch pretty much turned being a town board supervisor “into a full-time job,” said John Adams, who has served on the town board since 1996. “He’s always very curious. If there is something he doesn’t know, he wants to know, and that’s why he wants to be involved.”

“I learned early on that I could not compete with the guy,” Adams said. “He was faster and smarter than anybody in the room. It’s been a joy, really, to work with the guy. I always learned something from him.”


Voedisch, a Sapphire Life master bridge player, plans to play more bridge during his retirement. He currently plays online bridge five or six times a week and coaches twice a week.

“One of the things that happened with COVID is that the ability to play bridge on the computer has absolutely exploded,” he said. “People can now play way more than they could before. The number of games has skyrocketed. I coach a group of beginners; they’re retirement age, have 0 to 20 master points, and they are so much fun. Apparently, they think I’m kind of nutty.”

Voedisch also plans to continue mowing the township’s baseball fields. “I can help keep the park looking pretty good,” he said.


Marv Schroeder has plowed, graded and cleared the roads in May Township since 1957; he turns 90 in April. He said he was sorry to hear that Voedisch wasn’t running again. “I got along with Bill real well,” Schroeder said. “If something came up, he took care of it.”

“The corn is a good yield all the way around,” Marvin Schroeder said while working on his Stillwater farm Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Voedisch said he was glad to meet his goal of retiring before Schroeder. Schroeder, for his part, said he has no plans to retire. “If I retire, I die,” he said.

“I wasn’t going to face the prospect of not having Marv to grade the roads,” Voedisch said. “He’s been doing that for 64 years. Sixty-four years. If he’s not in the grader, he’s in a tractor or a combine. That’s just what he loves.

“He still enjoys what he’s doing, and I still enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “It was a great 24 years — getting the opportunity to get out and meet the great people of this township — some of them have been here forever, some just for a year or two. It’s just a very special place.”

Steve Magner, a member of the township’s planning commission, is the only person who filed for Voedisch’s seat on the town board. The election will be held during the township’s annual meeting on March 9.